Banana Muffins

It is so easy to write about food.  Well, at least that’s what I thought.  When deciding about the subject for my first real post I debated whether or not I should share my first attempt at blogging.  It was written more than a year ago and it didn't somehow seem fair to use it.  Then I figured why waste a perfectly good post? So I dusted it off (can you do that with a digital file?), and gave it a quick re-read along with a heavy edit. I also wasn't sure how to preface this old post, nor how to connect it to anything in my life. The original post was simple in format and basically just talked about how to make the recipe. That isn't really the direction I want to follow here, so as I thought about this simple recipe I remembered what I was like when I first started cooking. 

Back then I didn't care about what was in the recipes, only if they sounded or looked tasty. It didn't matter how long they were, how complicated they were, or even if they used specialty ingredients that would be impossible to find at my local grocery store.  I was also a very messy cook.  When I finished making something you could bet that nearly every bowl, pot and pan would be sitting on the counter.  There would be dishes, spoons and beaters piled in the sink. There would be remnants of whatever was being made on the kitchen towels and sponges (and maybe even the walls).  I just didn't have the “clean as you go” mentality.  If you ever came into my kitchen while I was cooking, you would probably never want to eat at my house again.

I also didn't recognize the need for prepping or for being organized as you cook.  I couldn’t tell you the number of times I have rushed in and started a recipe, only to get three quarters of the way through and then discover there were no eggs, or I'm short on sugar.  You really only have to have this happen to you a few dozen times before you begin to comprehend what chefs mean when they say "mise en place" and how important it really is. I’d like to think I have grown out of most of those bad habits, though I will admit they do pop up every now and again. (Hey, I'm human).

The thing that's changed the most about me though, is that I really appreciate simple food, simply prepared.   Don't get me wrong; I won't pass up a recipe just because it has a lot of ingredients (especially some of those showstopper desserts around the holidays).  But there is something to be said about simply roasting vegetables with a little olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt, or even a basic chocolate chip cookie.  Often you can create wonderful things with just a handful of ingredients and I think that's why I like this banana muffin recipe so much.

Okay, so I know what you’re thinking, “oh no, not another banana bread recipe” and you’d be right.  A quick search on the Internet will provide hundreds of recipes and I am sure most of them are just fine.  In fact, some tout they are “The Best”, or “The Greatest”, and one would be a fool to argue with the Internet, right?  I won’t add those descriptors to the title of this recipe, no matter how much I might feel there are adjectives like “fabulous”, or “marvelous”, or as my Grandmother would have said, “Bestest”, that would certainly fit.

Banana bread is one of those things that will simply make you feel good. It’s great for breakfast, it’s a perfect afternoon snack, and I venture to say that this recipe could even substitute for dessert in a pinch.  I have made many loaves of banana bread and I have had some results that were Dry (notice the capitol D), others that fell apart, and some that just lacked flavor. Then there are the recipes that call for four overripe bananas, and I can only speak for myself, but very rarely do I have four bananas that get to that perfectly overripe point in my house. And, though again it might just be me, I usually don’t have spare sour cream, buttermilk, or yogurt just sitting in the refrigerator.  On those days when I find there are a few bananas in the fruit bowl that I don’t want to eat but are not so far gone as to be thrown away, I don’t want to have to go to the store to buy everything else. But the real reason I love this recipe is because with only two bananas I can make 6 glorious muffins, with things I almost always have on hand, in just about an hour.

In todays batch I added chocolate chips because I had a small amount left over from some other project. Now I don’t want to get into the debate over whether banana bread should have any additions to it, specifically nuts or chocolate chips, (you can google all you want and join in on the debate as you see fit), but this recipe takes very well to adding items like these, and also does very well without.  If you like walnuts in your bread, so be it.  If you don’t, that’s great too. If you do decide to use add-ins in the bread, limit them to no more than 1/4 cup. 

As I’ve mentioned, banana bread that comes out dry has often been a problem for me. I have often thought that baking banana bread in a traditional loaf pan has somewhat contributed to the dryness (don’t blame the baker when you can pawn it off on the loaf pan, right?).  Often when baking in a loaf pan by the time the center is cooked the edges can be way overdone. That’s why I switched to muffins; they have a shorter bake time (less square footage to cook through, I guess) so they tend to hold on to moisture better.  Even though you can bake a double batch in a traditional 9x5 loaf pan, I highly recommend trying the muffin route.  You’ll be glad you did. 

You’ll also be surprised that you can get this really great flavor and texture out of so few ingredients, and a simple uncomplicated way of mixing it together. So look to the fruit bowl and see if you’ve got some bananas that you should have eaten the day before yesterday.  Got em…? Well let’s get to it!

First you’ll want to gather your ingredients so they have time to come to room temperature, so look at the ingredients list and get everything ready. 

And for all you experienced bakers out there you can download or print my recipe here but let me know how they came out for you okay?

Ingredients:

  • ½ Cup Sugar
  • ¼ Cup Butter - Room Temperature
  • 1 Egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ Teaspoon Vanilla
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons Milk
  • 1 Cup Flour
  • ¼ Teaspoon Salt
  • ¼ Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • ½ Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1 ⅓ to 1 ½ cups mashed bananas (about 2 Bananas (just a bit overly ripe)
  • Optional: up to ¼ cup Chocolate Chips, or Walnuts, or Pecans, or …

Instructions:

1. Place your oven rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 325°.  I use a thermometer in my oven to test the temperature and to see that it is exactly as needed before I start putting everything together.  Preheating the oven allows a little extra time for some of my ingredients that I forgot to take out of the refrigerator to come to room temperature. 

2. Place 6 extra-large muffin cups in a muffin tin.  I found some nice Parchment Tulip Cups made by PaperChef at my local grocery store, but any extra-large cupcake liner (baking cup) will do.

3. When your oven is heated, take the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and whisk them together in a bowl until they are well combined, and set that aside.  Mixing these together now will allow them to be evenly distributed through the batter when you add it to the wet ingredients later. 

4. If you have decided you are going to add in optional ingredients take a small spoonful (about 1 tablespoon) of the flour mixture and mix that into your add-ins.  This will coat them slightly and help keep them from sinking to the bottom of the pan when incorporated later.

5. Next, in your stand mixer (if you have one) or with your electric mixer (if you have one) or, well I suppose you could do this all by hand with a stiff whisk (I have never tried that…) beat together the butter and sugar until the color is light and the mixture is fluffy.  This will take about 2 minutes on medium speed of a stand mixer.

6. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl, then add your egg, vanilla, and milk. Just dump them in, and beat again at medium speed, just until they come together and get smooth.  Don’t panic if at first the mixture looks broken (some people say it looks curdled) it will come together and get smooth…  As soon as it gets smooth, stop the mixer and again scrape down the bowl.

7. Take your flour mixture and add it to the bowl.  Add the whole thing at once.  Some people like to slowly add the flour in, while the mixer is running on low speed, and if that’s how you like to do it, I won’t make you change.  For me with the flour in the bowl, I simple pulse the machine a few times (just move the power switch to the first position for a second and then back to off again).   After four or five pulses, a good amount of the flour will be incorporated into the butter mixture and you can leave the mixer on lowest speed and mix just until everything comes together.  There may even be a little flour still visible in the batter and that’s okay. 

8. Once more scape down the sides of the bowl, and make sure there are no large pockets of flour hidden underneath.  Your batter will be a little stiff at this point as almost all the moisture will be coming from the bananas.

 

From here on the mixing will be by hand, either a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.  This will help to keep the batter in perfect working order.

9. To the bowl, add in your mashed bananas, and fold everything together. 

10. If you’re going to add any optional ingredients fold them in now just until combined. In the end you should have a slightly shiny, perfectly moist, evenly distributed batter.

11. Divide the batter evenly between the 6 extra-large muffin cups and you’re ready to bake. 

12. Bake muffins for 30-40 minutes until the tops of the muffins are uniformly golden brown and the top is firm.  Watch the color as this is your best indicator of doneness in these muffins.

13.  When done, allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then carefully remove from the tin and let them cool on a rack until you can’t stand it anymore, and then devour.

Notes: 

You can double this recipe and bake either 12 muffins or pour your batter into a greased 9x5 loaf pan and bake for 60-70 minutes. Test for doneness as above or by using a toothpick. When inserted into the center it should come out clean. Let the bread cool in the pan about 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

When I double this recipe I usually use 3 good size bananas.

I hope you'll give these a try and let me know how they came out.